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Sad Vacation
Josiah Webster

Five thousand Hellobucks. That’s almost enough to buy a rocketship. You can pick up a
few if you watch a 30 second ad, or if you complete the Daily Slog. But the real source is cold hard cash. Ħ100 for $2, Ħ300 for $5, Ħ1000 for $12. At the $50-$100 range you get loads of Hellobucks for free, but I can’t afford that right now, so I just buy them a few hundred at a time, slowly saving up to get that rocketship.
          I’m going to name it Glenda. Isn’t that pretty?
          But it’s only a game. I play it at night when I’m trying to sleep. When I’m too exhausted to move. When I am filled with the dread of sleeping because I know that it will pass too quickly. There are ads–they come in little batches of twos and threes, always at random, always too loud. They are always the same ads. For $10 you can turn them off. But if you turn them off, you won’t get any Hellobucks for free.
          I’m playing more these nights. When the light is off and I am lying in bed, so sapped, and stomach growling from noodles again. The screen is a pulsating spotlight, binding my head in its glow like a tractor beam. Blue beam. Reflecting off eyegloss, noseshine, and the matte white of my pillow. My eyes have been stinging, vessels distending. The sclera is red by morning.
          And there is seemingly endless game to be played. The numbers get bigger at each new stage. I was at one point grinding for a covered wagon–now look! Now the numbers are bigger.
          With glitzy cheesy sound effects through tinny-speakered phone, the vaguely wood-
sounding tap of the fingers on plastic. Expert quick tapping. The screen with its slight
pliability. The cachet of rewards, of boxes that glow when they open, momentously opening.
          Of course, you could beat the game without buying anything at all. It just takes time. These false currencies are used to buy skins and trinkets and great beauties like Glenda that would take so, so much longer to earn the old-fashioned way. The game is not designed to be satisfying that way. But if you grease it, it almost can be. You just don’t have the time to be that unsatisfied for that long, not when you’ve rent due and work in the morning and nothing in brain but the strained sub-emotion, the half-thought; the need for a moment to breathe or to wander outside yourself, empty with lightness and hope for a piece of thepeace of the mind.
          There is no time. No energy left. There is just enough to keep the eyes pried and play the game. Plugged into the wall all night as you play, because it drains your battery, because your battery’s never full. Because you’re too tired to get out of bed except when you have to in mornings on too little sleep after the long night up getting nowhere in particular except for maybe somewhere on a budget far, far from here that doesn’t exist.
          When I get my Glenda, she sits on the virtual property, unable to move. It isn’t
programmed like that. I tap on her, furiously tapping, and numbers come out. They’re bigger than ever.
          Weighted to my mattress, I wonder where I would fly, if I could.
Josiah Webster

Josiah Webster's favorite place to dwell is the uncanny gulch between the real and the perceived. He also dwells in SE Portland. His recent publications can be found at Ergot Press and Figwort Literary Journal. You can also find him via @byzantine_dream on Instagram and Twitter.

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